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Phuket’s most dangerous job

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Saijai Luesup, 48, has been working as the Workplace Safety Department of Phuket Provincial Labor Protection and Welfare Office chief for almost four years. She has a bachelor’s degree in public health from Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University.

PHUKET: Construction sites pose the greatest danger to workers in Phuket. Because of this we are very thorough with our safety inspections, which is why there are not a lot of workplace accidents.

Most of the time, dangerous situations on construction sites are created by employees who don’t follow regulations. Almost every time I go out, I see workers not following safety regulations. The other major cause of these situations is workplace pressure. One of the most dangerous time periods during construction is when the project is nearing its deadline, as sometimes workers start to rush.

Work safety regulations were last updated in 2011. Every employer is supposed to study Labor Protections and Welfare Regulation BE 2554, and know the regulations in it.

The regulations include training employees and giving them the equipment they need to stay safe while they’re working. Part of the law also says that companies doing the most dangerous work must employ safety experts.

Not knowing the regulations is not an excuse, and will not exempt employers from being punished if they don’t obey them. The highest penalty for an employer whose safety practices lead to worker injury, death or disease is one year in prison, 400,000 baht or both.

Our officers do work-safety inspections at least once a month. We don’t inform companies that we’re coming, so they can’t prepare.

We don’t fine a lot of employers. Normally, if we find a safety violation, we give the company 30 days to fix the problem, then inspect again.

In this fiscal year, which started last October 1, I have only pursued fines in four cases. All of them involved the death of an employee. One worker died after rocks fell on the backhoe he was driving (story here). I sent this case and others like it to Governor Maitri Inthusut to review them.

Most of the big construction companies follow our safety regulations. It’s often the smaller sites that don’t, maybe through lack of awareness; because it’s financially difficult; or just through carelessness.

Safety regulations stipulate that employers must supply their staff with safety equipment. On a construction site the basic equipment is a safety hat, safety gloves and safety shoes. We are flexible according to the work, and sometimes allow workers to wear plastic boots instead of safety shoes if it seems appropriate.

Employers are also responsible for making their employees follow safety regulations. On their part, employers can punish employees who don’t follow the rules, normally by suspending them without pay.

It’s not only construction sites that we inspect. Other kinds of businesses are gas stations, chemical and biological labs, quarries, hospitals, shopping malls and even five-star hotels.

Something we keep our eye out for at hotels is improper storage of chemicals, such as cleaning liquids or pesticides used by gardeners. These products should not be stored near food. I’ve seen plates of food on housekeeping carts next to cleaning fluids, and I’ve seen gardeners sitting next to their containers of pesticide eating lunch. These are unsafe practices.

If I had to give one piece of safety advice to construction companies, it would be this: Take extra care of your employees as deadlines approach. Check on them more often, and be sure to follow the overtime regulations stipulated by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.

— Chutharat Plerin

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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